Canberra's Patrick Mills who plays in the NBA for the San Antonio Spurs. Photo: Vincent Long
He's just helped Australian basketball to one of its proudest moments, and Australian Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis believes Patrick Mills' improved decision-making has helped spark his breakout NBA season.
Three Australian players started an NBA match for the first time when Mills and Aron Baynes helped guide an injury-depleted San Antonio to a win over Andrew Bogut's Golden State on Friday.
Point guard Mills scored 20 points starting in place of injured superstar Tony Parker, and is averaging a career-high 17 minutes a game for the defending Western Conference champions.
Lemanis believes Canberra product Mills was a ''victim of circumstance'' trying to impress the Spurs coaching staff in limited court time last season, his first at the club.
Brimming with confidence now he's won their faith, Lemanis predicts the Boomers to benefit most come September's FIBA World Cup in Spain.
''He's making good decisions on the shots he takes, that will be something that's advantageous for us,'' Lemanis said.
''Patty's getting meaningful minutes and not just at the end of the game, he's getting them when the game is still to be decided.
''When you get limited minutes you can become a victim of circumstance, trying to prove yourself to the coaches in a short amount of time.
''They've grown to trust in Patty and understand how he's going to help their team, he's repaid that faith by playing well.''
Lemanis bristles when people suggest that basketball in Australia is going through a tough time.
Mills is one of four Australians playing big minutes in the NBA, with Matthew Dellavedova impressing in his rookie season at Cleveland.
Teenage prodigy Dante Exum could bring the representation to five if he opts to bypass US college and nominate for the draft.
''You get the odd comment around the place that [Australian] basketball is going through some tough times and you go, hang on, we're producing some pretty good players,'' Lemanis said.
''We've got four players in the NBA and a potential top five draft pick [Exum].
''When I first took the job I commented a few times on what we've got now is a core group of guys still in the prime of their careers.''
Mills has forged his reputation around speed and scoring impact, but Lemanis has been equally impressed by his dogged defence.
''One thing he's carried from the Boomers environment to the Spurs is getting up the floor and being a pesky defender,'' Lemanis said.
''It's something he certainly was as a junior and it's something different in the NBA.''